Some $240,000 granted to the Cayman Islands National Museum that was taken away to pay for equipment rentals for the George Town landfill has not been returned to the museum’s budget in the upcoming 2014/15 fiscal year.
The transfer of funds was needed to “meet certain costs associated with the George Town landfill,” Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said earlier this month.
The $240,000 given to the museum for securing a facility to house its support functions and collection of artifacts was not being used in the government’s 2013/14 budget at any rate. However, the museum was only given $100,000 in its “equity investments” budget – the area that would normally be used to pay for additional storage.
Minister Bodden, who has oversight responsibility for both the landfill and the museum, told the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee last week that the $240,000 included in the current year’s budget for the museum was to be the initial funding for a special storage facility.
“Right now, [some museum items] are jumbled into rented space,” Mr. Bodden said.
“These funds were to get it started … but, unfortunately, we were scrambling around for funds to assist with the landfill,” he said. “We’re hoping in the not too distant future we’ll be able to reimburse [the museum] for that.”
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said he’d heard government plans discussed for this storage facility at the museum going back to the 1990’s and nothing had ever happened.
“We don’t preserve the past,” East End MLA Arden McLean opined during the finance committee debate.
Mr. Bodden said he would meet shortly with the newly appointed board at the National Museum to discuss medium to long-term plans for the operation, including where a new storage facility might be place and how it could be funded.
Earlier in the finance committee debate, Minister Bodden said the Cayman Islands government was spending nearly $35,000 per month to rent equipment for its landfill to replace broken down, poorly maintained machines that had been out of operation anywhere from a year to three years at a stretch.
Costs for the rentals increased drastically following a February fire at the landfill site in George Town that burned for days.
“Prior to the fire at the landfill in February, it was typically a rental expense of $8,300 per month,” Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter said. “Following the fire, it is in region of $35,000 per month – the reason is I have no equipment available.”
Massive fires broke out at the landfill on Dec. 20, 2013 and Feb. 16, 2014. At the time of the February fire, five pieces of heavy equipment normally used to fight fires or mitigate the occurrence of fires were out of order and an engine from one of the excavators had been sent to Brazil for repairs.
During the latest fire that occurred at the landfill’s southern end, crews found it difficult going because of the missing equipment. The missing equipment included: two bulldozers, a trash compactor, and two excavators, Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said at the time.
The rental costs could hike up the rental fees to about $500,000 per year, if the department was required to keep renting it.
Mr. Bodden said funds had been set aside to purchase new equipment, but he said government needed to do a much better job of maintaining the heavy equipment it operates in the future.